By Tyler Hoyt, Green Table Farm
As I sit down to finally write this blog entry, I must confess that it is at least a couple weeks late, but for good reason! Late last month, Kendra and I tied the knot in front of about 200 people who gathered on our farm from all over the country. We fed them food we raised ourselves and entertained them in our new barn, complete with a bar and stage.
A word to aspiring or current farmers (who likely already know this): Do NOT host large events like this during your busy season! Just don’t. Needless to say the last couple of months have been eaten up with wedding preparation and building projects, leaving me very little time to think about big-picture problems with water in the Western U.S, let alone my own garden.
The only water problems that I could think about were those that needed to be addressed in order to keep my farm from falling apart during the multi-week madness of the wedding. And there were plenty of problems. One of my newest family members drove over an irrigation riser on accident, which destroyed it. On top of that, the baby goats were very poorly behaved in their pasture, which led to them to escape and treat an outflow valve like a jungle gym, destroying that as well. In the middle of the wedding milieu, these problems were very low on my list of concerns, but they had to be dealt with in order to keep the farm functioning.
Our farm troubles could be seen as a metaphor for the broader issues with water in the West. Problems never arise at great times. Phoenix is not going to ask for more water when there is plenty, and neither is Denver. They will ask at the worst time, in the depths of drought. This is the nature of a problem—there’s never a good time to for it to happen. Yet like the broken equipment on my farm, these issues need to be resolved in a timely fashion. We cannot keep sweeping our water problems under the rug, hoping that the next wet season will save us. We need proactive measures that save water before it is wasted on all levels. More efficient irrigation practices, watering during the cooler/less windy times of the day, and using sensors that can measure water moisture levels are all agriculture techniques that can help conserve water, but everybody needs to do their part. Sorry Denver, that might mean an end to your lawns. Unless, of course, city grazing restrictions are lifted, allowing urban homeowners to make their mini pastures actually produce something again.
In order to deal with my own on-farm water issues, I had to take time out of an incredibly busy week. But it had to happen! If I had not made the time, my problems would have snowballed into something that would have inevitably ended our growing season early and caused a lot more headaches in the future. Problems don’t typically solve themselves; they must be dealt with. We have no other choice when dealing with our water problems in the West.
If Denver and Phoenix want more water and they are willing to take it off of farms, then this needs to be dealt with head-on by the agriculture sector. We cannot ignore issues surrounding water scarcity anymore, and the sooner we start dealing with them, hopefully the less of a headache it will be down the road.
This post is part of a series following four young farmers/ranchers from Colorado and New Mexico as they write about their experiences with water access and explain everything from what it feels like to clean a 400-year-old acequia to how they’ve learned to make the most of the water they have through conservation and crop selection. To help you understand the terminology around water access, we’ve put together a short glossary at the bottom of this blog post.